LITTLE ROCK — Lawmakers on Friday sent to Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s desk a bill to allow concealed handguns to be banned at college sports events and a few other places if a state-approved security plan is in place.
The Senate voted 23-7 to approve Senate Bill 724 by Senate President Pro Tem Jonathan Dismang, R-Searcy. The chamber first approved the bill last week but had to vote again on it because it was amended in the House.
The House approved the bill Thursday in a 71-20 vote.
A spokesman for Hutchinson said the governor plans to sign the bill Monday.
The measure passed out of both chambers despite opposition from the National Rifle Association.
The bill proposes changes to Act 562 of 2017, formerly House Bill 1249, which Hutchinson signed into law March 22.
Act 562 allows a person with a concealed-carry permit who completes eight hours of additional training to obtain an enhanced permit allowing him or her to carry a concealed handgun into several places where guns previously were banned, including state colleges, airports, polling places, athletic events, most state offices and the state Capitol.
A provision in the law allows an enhanced permit holder to carry a gun at a bar, church or private college unless signs are posted announcing that guns are prohibited.
The law will not allow guns to be carried into courtrooms, K-12 public schools, public prekindergarten programs or facilities of the state Department of Correction, the state Department of Community Correction or a building on a college campus where a grievance or disciplinary hearing is being held.
After the law was enacted, the Southeastern Conference called on the Legislature to exempt college sports events from the law. Some questioned whether Arkansas would lose athletic tournaments because of the law.
Some also voiced concerns about whether the law would threaten the accreditation of the University Arkansas for Medical Sciences, and whether guns should be allowed at the Arkansas State Hospital, a mental hospital connected to UAMS.
Also, some privately owned entities, including churches, raised objections to having to post signs on their buildings if they did not want to allow concealed handguns. Some pointed out that the law bans guns at K-12 and prekindergarten schools but not at day-care centers.
SB 724 would allow concealed handguns to be banned at a college athletic event, UAMS or the Arkansas State Hospital if a security plan is submitted to and approved by the Arkansas State Police.
In the case of an athletic event, the institution hosting the event would have to submit a security plan at least five days before the event.
The bill also would allow private entities to ban concealed handguns without posting signs and would add day-care centers to the list of places handguns could not be carried.
“There is a responsibility for us to maintain and make sure that those places are secure for everyone,” Dismang told senators.
Sen. Trent Garner, R-El Dorado, who voted against the bill, told senators, “The Second Amendment is a fundamental civil right … It is a God-given right.”
Speaking for the bill, Sen. Stephanie Flowers, D-Pine Bluff, said her sister was shot and killed at the age of 19 and expressed dismay at the increasing prevalence of guns in society.
“The God I serve does not tell me that I have a fundamental right to carry a gun,” she said. “The God I serve is a god of love.”